Florida is returning home for the first time in 21 days on Wednesday night to play Southeastern Louisiana.
A sparse crowd is expected at the O’Connell Center, given students are on break and that Southeastern Louisiana is far from a marquee opponent. Of the 347 teams in Division I, Southeastern Louisiana ranks 339 in RPI.
But even with marquee opponents Wisconsin and Marquette visiting Gainesville last month, the Gators have yet to sell out the O’Connell Center this season. Florida’s average paid attendance through its first five home games is 9,659.2 fans per game.
I asked Florida coach Billy Donovan about what he felt about UF’s fan support this season.
“I never really get involved in that stuff at all,” Donovan said. “Here’s my thing, I think the two most important commodities people have in their life is their time and their money. And for anybody to determine what they should do with their time and their money to me would be a great injustice. In today’s economic times, what it would cost to go to events or movies, or buy gas or things like that, I never worry about that stuff, that’s each individual person’s own decision of what they want to do with their time and with their money. And for me to sit there and say they should be at Florida basketball games or they should be doing this, I just think that’s totally wrong.”
Attendance has trended downward in both college football and college basketball in recent years due to factors such as more games being available on television, high-definition television and later start times due to national TV. Still, of the eight teams that reached the Elite Eight last season, Florida’s average paid attendance was the second-lowest, ahead of just Baylor.
When asked how those attendance numbers impacted recruiting, Donovan responded: “I think we play in a pretty good environment here. I don’t think there’s any questions about that. I think kids ultimately make a lot of decisions on style of play, relationship with the head coach, those kind of things, opportunity to grow and develop, get better, have a chance to play in the NBA. Listen, I think any person, player, coach or anything else, would love to see sellout after sellout after sellout. But I have no control over that. I don’t really focus on that.”
– Florida coach Billy Donovan was in Chicago on Monday to watch Sports Illustrated cover boy Jabari Parker play at Simeon High. The 6-foot-8 Parker, a smooth and skilled wing compared to LeBron James, has Florida is his final five with Duke, Michigan State, Stanford and BYU. Parker, the number two overall recruit in the Class of 2013, will announce his decision on Thursday on ESPNU.
– Here’s an interesting read from SI.com’s Andy Glockner on Florida senior Kenny Boynton and whether the Gators can win big with his decision-making at point guard.
– Florida freshman guard Michael Frazier played only three minutes Saturday night against Arizona due to the flu. Frazier sat out Friday’s practice. “We weren’t even sure if he was going to make the trip,” Donovan said. “He had a fever, a pretty significant fever.” Donovan said Frazier took part in the shoot-around Saturday but was lethargic. “He just wasn’t himself,” Donovan said. “And that was really probably the reason why I didn’t play him a lot.”
– Florida freshman guard Scottie Wilbekin played through a broken finger on his non-shooting hand against Arizona. He suffered the injury last Thursday in practice.